Workflow analysis

Performing a workflow analysis will help improve your workflow process and show areas that could use workflow automation

With the number of responsibilities that get piled onto business owners and managers, having a good workflow is a necessity. Conducting a workflow analysis is what’s going to let you and your team know exactly what’s going on and how well it’s working.

Despite how important workflows are, many people struggle with putting them in place and keeping them going over time. As plans change, you may start to notice that tasks will shift. Suddenly, you can find yourself in a situation where your workflow and process have completely vanished.

To help you create a lasting system that supports your entire team, we’ve put together this helpful guide to conducting a workflow analysis.

What is a workflow

A workflow is any process that you put in place to guide a team through a project or assignment. It’s a central part of project management that allows everyone to clearly see what must be completed.

Here’s a simple example of a workflow:

  1. Write blog from the approved content calendar
  2. Send blog to quality control for review
    1. Complete edits if necessary
  3. Send blog to team lead for final review
  4. Send blog to the client after approved by the team
  5. Once approved, upload blog

A good workflow should be set up to support and guide a team member from start to completion of a project.

A workflow process can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. We always recommend keeping things simple. However, sometimes, you will be organizing a lot of moving parts into a single workflow. In these cases, automation becomes a helpful tool to keep things coordinated.

We’ll come back to how using an automation tool can help you better manage a workflow process later in this blog.

The workflow process

To make sure your team is working efficiently, it is key to have a strong workflow process. Knowing what comes next in a project will help your team complete high-quality work and coordinate collaborations. However, each workflow will differ and need a different amount of manager involvement.

This means that someone on the team must create each process to ensure it is set up properly. In fact, having a solid workflow will play into your risk assessment matrix and help avoid future problems.

Project managers can create similar workflows to provide structure to repetitive tasks. For example, all client blogs should follow a similar process. Therefore, if you know that a particular client has bi-monthly blogs, you can set up duplicate workflows for each blog. Simply adjust the specifications and your team can begin to execute on that project.

Keep in mind that each step in a workflow can have one or two sub-activities that need to be completed: 

  1. Receive content from the client
  2. Implement category pages on the website
    1. Implement real content where available
    2. Notate areas needing content from the client
  3. Send website draft to quality control
    1. Make edits if needed
  4. Send website to team lead for review
    1. Make edits if needed
  5. Send to the client for approval

A picture of a man completing a workflow analysis

Workflow automation: Your key to workplace efficiency

Being efficient is one of the most important parts of keeping a business running smoothly. Using tools to automate your workflow is an easy way to help your team be successful.

There are many tools out there that can help managers and employees alike add structure to their days.

These tools come in a variety of packages to accommodate teams of different sizes and needs. As a result, task management tools are a great way to automate your processes to keep the work flowing without your direct involvement.

You can make things easier by setting up dependencies, due dates, reminders, and process flow within your task management tool. You should complete this after you understand the steps that each project needs.

What is a workflow analysis?

A workflow analysis is a process of reviewing your workflow and finding any problem areas.

Some companies use daily meetings to confirm what’s in their content workflows. This allows them to manage publishing blogs, both in a communal and task-oriented manner.

In a workflow analysis of your content process, you may notice a few bottlenecks or issues are arising. A simple fix would be to reiterate training, such as reminding employees to bring notes to the meeting. More serious changes, such as completely moving away from a meeting-based model, may become necessary after your evaluation.

The goal of a workflow analysis is improvement.

Why it’s important to take time to analyze your team’s workflow

Part of risk and project management is making sure that everyone is set up for success. Just like how you have to frequently assess how successful a project is coming along, the same must be done for the overall workflow

As we mentioned earlier, the goal of a workflow analysis is to improve the environment your team works in. That’s why, even if everything is going well, you should still check and make sure that there isn’t anything that can be further improved.

Think critically about any slow areas and what you could do to quicken a process. If you notice errors frequently happening at a certain stage, check the workflow to see if there were any oversights.

In some cases, you may notice that there are no changes that need to be made. However, you should still conduct a regular workflow analysis to ensure that things continue to run efficiently.

a team discussing their workflow process in a board room

How to conduct a workflow analysis

If you’ve gotten all of your projects broken down into a workflow process, you will want to schedule regular workflow analysis sessions. In the beginning, there may be a lot of changes made after each review. As time goes on, you’ll notice that this tends to diminish as your team falls into a rhythm.

To make the most out of each review, you can follow these steps to get the best results:

Is this workflow relevant?

The first thing that you will want to do as a part of your analysis is to find out if the workflow is actually necessary.

This may seem like a surprising first step, but it really gets straight to the point. In the beginning, you may create “startup” workflows to get things off the ground and established. At a certain point, those early workflows may be more of a hassle than a help. This is because employees become too advanced in their knowledge to need those directives.

If something isn’t necessary, it shouldn’t be a part of your workflow. Before proceeding to any other steps, be clear you’re sure about the answer to this question.

Check the documentation

Every process and procedure in your organization should be well-documented. This is not only to help you train future employees but to create a standard for everyone.

Therefore, you will want to make sure that all the documentation for each workflow makes sense.

Is the process for a specific workflow explained clearly in your documentation? Can you improve the outline with images, charts, or even a screencast?

This step will help you understand (and potentially improve) the documentation of a workflow. By the end of this review, you’ll be able to see just how much your workflow really reflects the original plan.

Review current steps

Now that you know what a workflow should look like, you can actually begin to review the process.

If you are using an automated task management tool, pull up the workflow. Take your time reviewing the individual steps and timeline. Is each step correctly assigned and are the right instructions attached to each task?

When you uncover a discrepancy, take note of it. If there’s an area you think can be improved, write down why and what your proposed changes are. For every change made, you will want to note how you will measure whether or not the update was successful.  

Consult with team

Once you have your notes together, it’s time to talk to the team.

We always recommend that workplaces have open lines of communication and trust. Remember, your workflow analysis should be another opportunity to discuss improvement.

Ask your team if they have noticed any problem areas or if there are any improvements they’d like to see.

Take note of every comment and, after your meeting, review how their feedback compares to your original notes.

Notes that were taken of a workflow process to determine if workflow automation could be a viable option

Coordinate fixes

At this point, you will have a good idea of how your workflows are functioning and where the problem areas are.

Take both your notes and your team’s feedback and assemble a plan of action. These may roll out all at once or in tiers depending on what works best for your team at the time.

This step is all about planning and prioritizing changes, so make sure to take your time and stay organized throughout the process.

Project management and risk assessment

Once you have a plan ready, it’s time to perform your regular project management and risk assessment procedures.

These steps make sure that your improvements fit into the project as planned. Similarly, make sure that you identify the risks that may come with each change.

Implement improvements

Now that you have a plan and have assessed how effective it will be, it’s time to put your workflow analysis to the test.

Implement your improvements and keep a watchful eye to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

With some careful planning, your team can benefit from updated and streamlined workflows to guide them through projects.

 

By Nancy Roque

June 12, 2018


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